You Can Call, Secretary Reich. We’ll Fill You In

Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich mentions  the National Association of Manufacturers in a blog post/column that’s been making the rounds, most recently in the Christian Science Monitor, “Two kinds of American corporations – and their politics.” His reference is weird.

Reich specializes in writing “big picture” sorts of columns, which, alas, tend to get the big picture wrong. Such is the case with this piece, which reflects no actual knowledge of the NAM’s extensive activities on education and training. Excerpt (our emphasis):

The problem is, more and more big companies are moving into the second category because that’s where the markets and the money are. Years ago groups like the Business Roundtable consisted mostly of large American corporations that were indubitably American, and took largely progressive positions on U.S. jobs and wages. I remember working with the National Association of Manufacturers on measures to improve U.S. education and job training. The American Electronics Association pushed the Reagan Administration for an industrial policy to preserve the nascent industrial base of U.S. computing.

No longer. Large American corporations are going global as fast as they can. That’s good for their shareholders. But in a Washington ever more susceptible to their money and influence, that’s not necessarily good for most Americans.

What’s the implication? That the NAM no longer cares about measures to improve U.S. education and job training? C’mon, Mr. Secretary. That’s ridiculous.

Today in Chicago, for example, NAM President John Engler spoke at the International Manfacturing Technology Show 2010.  In his keynote address, Engler stressed how important it was that the U.S. improve the quality of education for U.S. manufacturing — especially high-tech manufacturing — to succeed in the face of global competition. Education is a priority for the NAM.

Indeed, the Manufacturing Institute is the NAM’s 501(c) 3 affiliate that focuses on education and training through its National Center for the American Workforce. It’s headed by Emily DeRocco, the former Assistant Secretary of Labor.

The center lists its vision and goals:

  • An educated and skilled, high performance workforce is key to manufacturers’ ability to compete in the global economy.
  • Every American can and should have the chance to get ahead and succeed in high quality, middle class jobs in the 21st century economy.

The Institute is a hard-working operation that has taken the national lead in encouraging the next generation of manufacturing workers with its “NAM-Endorsed Manufacturing Skills Certification System.” The system makes sure that students gain basic competencies and skills necessary to succeed in the workplace, with the certification demonstrating those abilities. In a national marketplace for employees, that kind of consistent credentialing is important for employer and employee alike.

In 2009, the Manufacturing Institute was awarded a $1.5 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to comprehensively plan and implement postsecondary education programs that included the certificate system.

The Institute’s website — —  has much more detailed information about the NAM and Institute’s efforts to improve U.S. education and job training.

It’s too bad Secretary Reich wrote the column without a little research, because the worries about globalization and U.S. companies with overseas markets are worth a good discussion. But you can’t paint that big picture if all the fine details in it are flat-out wrong.

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